You’ve probably all heard the old saying that “Driving a slow car fast is more fun than driving a fast car slow.” But have you ever actually put it to the test? We have, and it’s true!
Last week, Fiat invited us to take part in their one-day Fiat Abarth Track Experience at New Jersey Motorsports Park, with instruction from the folks at Skip Barber Racing School. While I’m no stranger to driving schools (or track days), I always welcome the chance to improve my driving skills, and I was excited to see how the Fiat 500 Abarth and Fiat 124 Spider Abarth would perform on the track. Turns out, they’re a ton of fun.
Our day started with some classroom instruction, where we went over some basic car control fundamentals, talking about oversteer and understeer, using weight transfer to prevent that, finding the right racing lines as you come into a corner, and more.
And with that, we headed outside to put some of those theories into practice, starting off with the skid pad. For this exercise, we were driving the 2019 Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, which has a mighty 164 horsepower and 184 lb-ft of torque (and sounds pretty sweet to boot, thanks to the new Record Monza exhaust). The object here? Induce oversteer by giving the car too much gas when cornering, and then attempt to recover from it.
If you live in an area that gets snow, you have likely found yourself in this scenario before. So what should you do? First off, you’ll want to quickly counter steer in the opposite direction of the skid, while gently reducing your speed by easing off the gas. Once you feel the car get back on track, you can steer back in the direction you’re headed and give the car some gas. There is definitely an art to it, but once you get the hang of it, you’re good to go.
We were let loose on a wet “track” and prompted to break traction again and again, and then recover from it. For me, this was way too much fun, and I could have spent all day here. For others, it was a bit frustrating, as there’s a bit of a learning curve. But everyone walked away better for having done it, and that’s the whole point of driver instruction like this.
After everyone got their fill of the skid pad, we moved over to the autocross, where we got to hop behind the wheel of the 2019 Fiat 500 Abarth (which puts out 160 horsepower and 170 lb-ft of torque), along with the aforementioned Fiat 124 Spider Abarth.
If you’ve ever been autocrossing before, you know horsepower doesn’t really come into play here, and that too much power could actually be a hinderance. Instead, it’s all about finding those perfect lines and apexes to get around the course as efficiently as possible, and using weight transfer to your advantage.
The Fiat 500 Abarth is probably one of the greatest cars for autocrossing, as it’s crazy small (easier to thread through the cones), and you can hammer the brakes coming into a turn and rotate the car with ease. The Fiat 124 Spider Abarth was equally fun in the course, but if they were keeping time, I’d venture to guess that I was putting down faster lap times in the 500.
After lunch, we donned our snazzy racing suits and headed out onto Thunderbolt (a 2.25 mile road course with 12 turns) for some lead-follow fun, where we’d be able to put everything we learned in the morning sessions into practice at full speed. I started off in the Fiat 124 Spider Abarth, switching over to the Fiat 500 Abarth in the following session.
SO. MUCH. FUN.
Now I’ll be honest, having driven this track previously in two 450+ horsepower cars, I was not sure how this was going to compare with a 300HP deficit. But I never found myself lacking for power. On the long straights, I eventually got up to 90mph (which felt plenty fast), and I was able to take corners faster than expected given the cars great handling dynamics. And on the one occasion where I came into a corner a little too hot, it was easy to recover.
Afterwards, I got to do a quick hot lap with one of the Skip Barber instructors, and he showed me what these cars could really do. And let me tell you, that was INSANE! (So much so that I nearly lost my lunch) I fancy myself a good driver, but these guys are on a whole other level.
I have always had a soft spot for the Abarths, and this track experience just reinforced my love affair with these Italians. They’re the total package, with classic looks, great performance, and exhaust notes like no other. And best of all, they won’t break the bank, with starting prices in the low 20’s. You’d be hard pressed to find a better bang for the buck.
Thanks to Fiat and Skip Barber Racing School for a great day at the track!
Photos courtesy of The SB Image
The Best Way To Wash Your Car At Home
I don’t about you, but I care about my car far too much to take it through a machine wash. Not only will you save time and money by washing your car at home, but it just gives you a sense of satisfaction when you see it all shiny and clean afterwards. Here are some tips on how to wash your car at home the right way:
Before getting started, inspect your car for any tar, bugs or overspray. You can find tar and bug removers at most auto parts store, or you can seek out an overspray removal specialist if it is really bad. You also want to avoid washing your car in direct sunlight, as the sun will cause the soap to dry up too fast, leaving behind water spots and streaks.
If you’ve got a garage, wash your car there. Otherwise, find a shady spot to wash your car in, or wait till near the end of the day when the sun isn’t as bright, making sure to keep the car wet at all times until you’re finally ready to dry it completely.
Make sure you’re using a quality car wash soap. I have been using Meguiars Car Wash for years now, and it foams away tough dirt, road grime and contaminants without compromising wax protection. You’ll also want some premium microfiber sponges, along with two buckets – one filled with plain water, the other with soapy water.
So now you’re ready to get started. Just make sure that the doors are shut, all windows closed, and double-check your sunroof if you’ve got one. Because the last thing you want to see when you open your car afterwards are puddles of water inside.
Before washing the car, rinse off the entire car to remove any loose dirt and debris before you apply any soap, so you’re not rubbing dirt into the paint. And remember, keep the body wet from here on out, and avoid spraying water under the hood.
Once your car has been completely rinsed off, soak your sponge in the soapy bucket, and start washing from the top of your vehicle, working your way down. You’ll want to soap up the car with the straight line technique for the best results. Don’t use circular motions because they will cause swirl marks. Also, don’t apply pressure while wiping the car.
When you are completely done washing the car, start rinsing off the soap from the top of the car down. Afterwards, dry off the car, using multiple towels for maximum efficiency. If it has been awhile since you last waxed/polished your car, now might be a good time to do so.
But if water is still beading up on the paint and the car is looking nice and shiny, call it a day and congratulate yourself on a job well done.
2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition To Debut At Detroit Auto Show
We’ve been fans of the Lexus RC F since it was first released back in 2015, but often wondered why it didn’t enjoy the same success as the competition, like the BMW M4 and others.
Truth be told, while the RC F was a great car to rip around town in (with a monster 5.0-liter V8 engine that puts out 467 horsepower and rockets from 0-60 in 4.3 seconds), it’s not nearly as much fun on the track, with softer handling and a lot of weight to hustle around.
But with the introduction of the 2020 Lexus RC F Track Edition, which makes its debut next month at the Detroit Auto Show. As the name suggests, this will be a more track-focused RC F variant, with Lexus promising to deliver “a higher degree of F.”
As you can see from this teaser photo, the Lexus RC F Track Edition features a massive carbon fiber wing, because downforce. To save even more weight, the hood, roof, front splitter, rear diffuser, and side skirts could all be done in carbon fiber as well.
We fully expect to see an increase in power to somewhere in the low 500HP range, with Robert Carter, executive vice president of sales for Toyota Motor North America, stating that “with the exception of LFA, this is the fastest, most powerful vehicle we’ve ever built.”
Bigger brakes and a set of 20-inch lightweight wheels wrapped in ultra-high-performance tires would make sense as well, improving the RC F’s braking performance and lateral grip.
For now, this is all just speculation, and we’ll have to wait until January 14th to find out all the juicy details. The Lexus RC F Track Edition is expected to be produced in limited numbers, so if you want one, you’re going to have to act fast!
Five Of The Best Superbikes On The Market Today
Creating a list of just five superbikes is a mammoth chore. Even picking the top 10 superbikes takes a lot of work, head-scratching and hours of YouTube research. But after all that, we have whittled down the list to five of the best superbikes on the market today.
Admittedly, some of them you need a heavy wallet and the right connections to track down, but that goes to show how brilliantly these bikes have been built.
1) Honda RC213V-S
The Honda RC213V-S is probably as close to a MotoGP bike as you’ll find. Brand new, it would have set you back a teeth-clenching $184,000, which is some pretty serious money for a bike. The limited production numbers means that price is only going up.. and people who’ve ridden the bike say it’s worth every penny of the price. The chassis is hand-fabricated and the whole thing weighs just 375 pounds. It’s a superb bike as is, but the Sports Kit package takes it to a whole other level, blowing away the competition. If what you’re after is basically a MotoGP bike with lights, then the Sports Kit version is for you.
2) MV Agusta F4CC
The MV Agusta F4CC might be a little difficult to track down, seeing that only 100 bikes were made. And it came with a whopping $120,000 price tag to boot. Almost everything on this bike is limited edition, with materials borrowed from the aero industry and supercars. Each F4CC has its unique serial number printed on a platinum plaque, and the owner gets a leather jacket to match. With a 200-horsepower 4-cylinder engine, a top speed of 195 mph, and plenty of carbon fiber and high-end tech, this bike really does deserve to be called super.
3) Suzuki GSX-R1000 K5/K6
Many owners of this bike caution against using it on the road simply because it’s so fast. One of the only downsides is you will probably end up with a good collection of speeding tickets if you’re not constantly checking your speed. It’s unlikely, and a shame, that bikes aren’t made as light these days, the lightweight (365lbs) paired with the superb engine means this is still one of the best superbikes out there.
4) KTM 1290 Superduke R
The KTM 1290 Superduke R is known for its crazy power, a fact fully acknowledged by KTM in the nickname they gave it – ‘The Beast’. A few laps around a track and you’ll know exactly why this bike earned its nickname. It’s pure, raw and straight to the point, with a monster 177HP on tap. Thankfully, the super high-tech electronics work their magic to keep the two wheels firmly planted on the road. If you want one, it’ll set you back around $18K.
5) Aprilia RSV4 RF
Riding most superbikes, you sacrifice the gadgets and gizmos for the pure power. But with the Aprilia RSV4 RF, you get the best of both worlds. In corners, it sticks to the road and seems to know where to go before you do. In 2016, the RSV4 RF was unveiled to comply with, or more accurately, take advantage of the new rules restricting the number of modifications allowed on superbikes. The RSV4 RF has smarter electronics, improved handling, is lighter, and more importantly, packs a bigger punch.
Sure, there are some truly awesome bikes that didn’t make this list – like the Ducati 1299 Superleggera. But the ones featured here really are monsters on the track and well worth seeking out if you are planning (or attending) a race day soon.